Super Creamy Cashew Butter Stir-Fry Sauce

White bowl on an orange and blue-flowered tablecloth full of vegetable stir fry topped with cashew butter sauce, chopped fresh basil and cilantro, sambal oelek, and crushed cashews.

When people find out you have a peanut allergy this is what they always say: “You mean you’ve never had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? Man, you are missing out!” It’s never any other candy, it’s never a peanut butter sandwich, it’s always Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (which, c’mon guys, are they really that great? Wait, don’t tell me). I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, however, so I’ll tell you what I always think I’m missing: Peanut stir-fry sauce topped with plenty of crushed, salty peanuts (my sister assures me that I’m correct, peanut stir-fry sauce is actually incredible). So I took it upon myself to make something close using cashew butter (although you could use something entirely nut-free like SunButter if all nuts are off the table). I’ve made several versions of this sauce, each feeling a bit like trial-and-error, especially when you consider the fact that I’ve never had the original to compare it with. This is the version I’ve been making lately, it’s rich and creamy yet tangy and vibrant, all at the same time. I like to make it in my blender because it turns the cashew butter stir-fry sauce-making into a 2 minutes-or-less type of activity, but you could use an immersion blender or even a whisk to incorporate all of the ingredients together. This recipe is for a vegetable stir fry but feel free to add the protein of your choice, I like to carefully fold in small cubes of creamy tofu towards the end of the cooking time with the vegetables.

super-creamy cashew butter stir-fry sauce:

1/2 cup smooth cashew butter

Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 Tbsp. lime juice, total)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. mirin

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. chopped ginger (use store-bought pre-prepped ginger if desired)

1-2 Tbsp. sambal oelek (garlic chili paste)

1/3 cup warm water

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth, adding more water to thin if necessary.

vegetable stir-fry:

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

4 cups of your favourite vegetables, thinly sliced (I’ve been on a real sweet pepper, carrot, baby bok choy, and scallion kick lately)

2 cups spiralized zucchini

1 cup basmati rice, steamed

1/2 cup fresh basil, loosely chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, loosely chopped

1/3 cup roasted and salted cashews, crushed (I like to put a handful of cashews into a resealable bag and whack them with the flat-side of kitchen mallet)

Extra sambal oelek and lime slices, for serving

  1. Add the grapeseed oil to a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet and heat until very hot over medium-high heat (the oil will start to look shimmery once it’s hot enough).
  2. Carefully add the vegetables and stir-fry until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. A minute or so before you think the vegetables are done, add the spiralized zucchini and keep cooking until they begin to soften.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and pour the cashew butter stir-fry sauce over the vegetable mixture. The cashew butter will thicken quickly, keep stirring to prevent the sauce from burning or sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Serve the stir-fried cashew butter vegetables with a scoop of rice, plenty of fresh basil and cilantro, a generous sprinkling of crushed cashews, a dollop of sambal oelek, and a lime wedge.

It’s kind of funny that The War on Drugs always makes me think of my dad, considering the fact that it’s highly unlikely he’s ever heard them. They remind me of Neil Young, which reminds me of some of his first “single dad” apartments (children of divorce, you know what I mean). Staying at those apartments every other weekend as a little kid was surreal, in retrospect. Not quite comfortable with just doing nothing with my sister and I, as we would be at my mom’s house, we would always have planned activities to keep everyone from feeling well, under the pressure. We did a lot of painting (my dad loves to paint), I remember once time we tried to make a papier-mâché horse using taped up newspaper and old Penny Savers. My dad’s visiting me in Vancouver for the first time in a couple of years next month and I’ll finally have to play him a War on Drugs album and see if he remembers the oddity of that time in my life the same way that I do.

The War on Drugs – Under the Pressure

Salmon and Great Northern Bean Salad with a Garlicky Tomato and Caper Salad Dressing

Thinly sliced cucumber, salad greens, chunks of salmon, and a dressed Great Northern Bean salad on a white plate and background.

Mellow Great Northern beans are combined with delicate chunks of baked (or poached, or grilled) salmon and then topped with an intensely garlicky tomato and caper dressing for a punchy yet elegant entrée salad. I’ll be the first to admit, the tomato and caper salad dressing is the main event with this salad, coating each ingredient with a burst of savoury flavour that needs to be tasted to be believed. Double the dressing recipe and store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week (although, really, who are we kidding ourselves? It’ll be gone long before then) and use it to dress up a thinly sliced flank steak, a sweet corn salad, that boring tangle of greens you’ve been eating all week for lunch, scrambled eggs, chopped salads, sliced ripe or roasted tomatoes, that lone can of chickpeas that’s been sitting in your pantry for the past 6 months, or a pasta salad packed with marinated deli vegetables. I prefer a dressing with some body so I stick to finely dicing and mincing all the ingredients, but feel free to blitz it if you like a smooth result. I like to mix the Great Northern beans with about a half of the tomato and caper dressing before composing the rest of the salad, if only to make sure every single bean is coated with plenty of piquant flavour.

Lotus-shaped white bowl on a white background filled with a tomato and basil salad dressing.

tomato and caper salad dressing:

1 medium tomato OR 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into a small dice

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. capers, minced

5 fresh basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt and plenty of freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a fork, applying gentle pressure to really work together the tomatoes with all the other ingredients. Alternately, throw everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. Set aside to use for the salmon and Great Northern Bean salad or store in the fridge, covered, for up to a week.

salmon and great northern bean salad:

(makes enough for 2 people)

2 baked salmon fillets, cooled to room temperature and flaked into large chunks

1 can Great Northern beans, drained (mixed with half of the Tomato and Garlic Salad Dressing)

4 cups iceberg lettuce, mixed spring greens, etc.

About 1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber

In a large shallow serving dish or over 2 plates, arrange the salmon fillet chunks and dressed Great Northern beans over a bed of lettuce, greens, and cucumber slices. Carefully portion the remaining tomato and caper salad dressing over the remaining salad ingredients and serve immediately.

Thinly sliced cucumber, salad greens, chunks of salmon, and a dressed Great Northern Bean salad on a white plate and background.

When I hear !!! (Chk Chk Chk) I think of two things: that time when I was 19 and flew across the country (and into another country) and met my now-husband for the first time and stayed in his dorm room at the Evergreen State College for a week (I think !!! were on a Best of Pitchfork from the early 2000s we listened to throughout the entire visit). The other thought is less specific, it’s more of a “why am I not dancing my ass off at some amazing house party where !!! is playing?” The answer is usually, “oh right, I’m in my apartment alone, on a Tuesday afternoon.” Does this stop me from having my own personal kitchen dance party? Um, hardly! (I write, while somehow dancing at the same time).

 

!!! (Chk Chk Chk) – NRGQ

 

 

 

 

Ginger-Garlic Grain Bowl with Roasted Golden Beets, Broccoli, and Baked Tofu

Ginger Garlic Grain Bowl with Roasted Golden Beets, Broccoli, and Baked Tofu

Because I work from home I’m always looking for ways to make my daytime meals as easy as possible. If I’m being completely honest this means I eat a lot of poached eggs and toast and drink way too many glasses of cold-brewed coffee on a daily basis. When I have my organizational act together I like to make grain bowls; specifically, two to five components which I can combine with some kind of grain to make a filling meal in minutes. Grain bowls can be made from any grain although quinoa is my favourite, I like to cook it ahead of time and then add a generous couple of tablespoons of minced garlic and ginger (there’s nothing worse than boring grains in a grain bowl). Roasting one or two vegetables for the week will also help expedite the grain bowl-making process, I’ve used golden beets and broccoli for this particular bowl. Grain bowls need some sort of protein to round out the meal and I find that baked tofu has a delightfully chewy texture and will keep in a tightly sealed container throughout the week. Pickled onions add a bright flavour contrast and some added  crunch and a tahini yogurt sauce brings all the components together. When the building blocks of a gorgeous grain bowl are all right in front of you it becomes that much easier to make them a daily part of your life. Packed with fibre and vitamins, grain bowls are an all-in-one way to incorporate more vegetables and grain into your diet.

for the roasted golden beets and broccoli:

3-4 golden beets, scrubbed and cut into a medium-sized dice

1 head of broccoli, broken into medium-sized florets

Olive oil

Kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the diced beets with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Spread the beets on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. While the beets are roasting and using the same bowl as before, toss the broccoli florets with with some more olive oil and another pinch of kosher salt.
  4. Add the broccoli to the baking tray with the beets and roast for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

for the baked tofu:

1 block of firm or extra firm tofu

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

1 Tbsp. sambal oelek

1 Tbsp. honey

About 1 inch of fresh ginger, finely minced

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 Tbsp. thinly sliced scallions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut the tofu into thick slabs and arrange in a single layer on a baking dish.
  3. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients to form a marinade. Pour over the tofu, turning each piece over to coat.
  4. Bake the tofu for 30-40 minutes, turning again once or twice.
  5. Remove from the oven and cut the baked tofu into cubes, if desired.

for the garlic-ginger quinoa:

3 cups cold cooked quinoa (made from about 1 cup of dried quinoa)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

3 Tbsp. minced ginger

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

  1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the minced ginger and garlic to the oil and sauté for a few minutes before adding the cold quinoa. Keep cooking and stirring for 4-5 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds and serve warm.

for the tahini yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup of plain yogurt

2 Tbsp. tahini

Juice from half a lemon

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. honey

Pinch of kosher salt

2-3 Tbsp. cold water

Combine all of the tahini yogurt sauce ingredients together in a bowl or a blender until completely smooth, adding water as needed to thin out the sauce until it’s a consistency that can be easily drizzled. Extra tahini yogurt sauce can be refrigerated for 5 days.

for the pickled red onions:

1 red onion, thinly slice

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar OR lime juice

Combine the red onion with the red wine vinegar or lime juice, tossing to combine. Let the red onion sit for at least 30 minutes and up to several days in the refrigerator.

to make the grain bowl:

To assemble a Ginger-Garlic Grain Bowl with Roasted Golden Beets, Broccoli, and Baked Tofu begin with a generous scoop of quinoa as the base. Pile on equal amounts of roasted golden beets and broccoli and baked tofu. Drizzle with tahini yogurt sauce and a handful of pickled red onions. Extra add-ons I’m a fan of include chopped pickles, cilantro and parsley, feta cheese, toasted seeds and nuts, and sliced green olives.

Oh, this is lovely. I’ve been obsessively listening to The Japanese House the past couple of weeks. I can’t resist, Amber Bain’s sublime synth-heavy songs sound like perfect little soundtracks to bitter-sweet daydreams.

The Japanese House – Face Like Thunder

Roasted Cauliflower and Radishes with Pickled Onions

A white casserole dish full of roasted cauliflower, radishes, pickled onions, and cilantro on a red and green striped tablecloth.

I am a HUGE fan of dinner parties featuring well, dinners, composed of lots of interesting and equally delicious dishes which are centred around a some sort of theme (which could be general or very specific, either way). In an effort to officially begin the year 2018 in An Orderly And Responsible Fashion I spent a few days last week shopping for and then cooking some dinnertime basics I could pull out of the freezer as needed, one of these recipes being a loose riff on the sesame-spiced meatballs in the first Smitten Kitchen cookbook (I say loose in that I subbed pork and beef for the turkey and added sesame oil and finely chopped cilantro). Having things like meatballs, creamy puréed chickpea soup, beef stew, and bean burritos in the freezer means that meals are considerably less likely to be sidetracked for mediocre frozen pizzas and takeout on nights when I don’t feel like cooking. I also take advantage of my beloved freezer pantry when hosting those aforementioned dinner parties, hence the appeal of sesame-spiced meatballs. The fragrant scent of cumin, sesame, and cilantro became the main theme of this particular dinner and the surrounding spread went on to include tabouleh, a tahini-yogurt-lemon dip drizzled with mustard and coriander-steeped olive oil, finely chopped cornichons, and this beauty of a dish: roasted cauliflower and radishes with pickled onions. The tanginess of the pickled onions brightens the earthy flavours of the roasted vegetables without overwhelming them and the chopped cilantro adds just the right amount of herbacious green flavour while amplifying the overall appearance of this gorgeous, couldn’t-be-simpler recipe.

A white casserole dish full of roasted cauliflower, radishes, pickled onions, and cilantro on a red and green striped tablecloth.

While I originally served this easy roasted vegetable recipe as-is, I was fortunate to have leftovers the next day which I stuffed (room-temperature) into fresh pitas topped with Greek yogurt and hot sauce.

roasted cauliflower with radishes and pickled onions:

for the pickled onions:

1/2 red onion, cut into thin strips

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

In a small bowl toss the red onion with the red wine vinegar and lime juice. Let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours before serving.

for the roasted cauliflower and radishes:

1 medium-sized cauliflower, cut into large bite-sized pieces

10 radishes, scrubbed and halved

Juice of 1 orange

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. coriander

2 tsp. sumac

1 tsp. kosher salt

Plenty of freshly cracked pepper

1 cup of cilantro, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine the chopped cauliflower and radishes. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the cilantro and toss to combine (I use my hands for this step).
  3. Spread the vegetables on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, stirring three or four times throughout so that the cauliflower and radishes brown easily.
  4. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. Top with the cilantro and stir to combine. Serve warm or cold with hummus, Greek yogurt or stuffed into pita bread.

Why yes I DO love 1980’s Joni Mitchell, thanks so much for asking (and when Peter Gabriel decides to tag along too, even moreso). I’m alone a lot during the day so I’ll listen to this album (Chalk Mark In A Rain Storm) as well as many other super-lady albums while I’m working away at my desk.

Joni Mitchell – My Secret Place

Kale and Ricotta Spinach Puff Pastries

A pale green plate with 2 Kale and Ricotta Spinach Puff Pastries resting on top of 3 kale leaves.

These delightful little puff pastries look impressive but couldn’t be simpler to make thanks to the wonders of frozen chopped kale and pre-rolled puff pastry sheets. I like to make these whenever an appetizer emergency strikes as I usually have all the ingredients handy (and by appetizer emergency I mean when I realize halfway through a glass of wine that I haven’t eaten all day). I’ve used feta, Boursin, and fresh goat cheese in place of the ricotta, but there’s something about the delicate pillowy texture ricotta that I feel is perfectly copacetic with the rest of the ingredients. Take the puff pastry out of the freezer at the same time as the kale and forget about them for a half or so until they’re both defrosted. If you can’t find frozen chopped kale feel free to use spinach instead (or any other green you can find in the freezer section). I should add that these make excellent cold or reheated leftovers, just brush them with some melted butter and heat in a warm oven for 5-6 minutes.

kale and ricotta spinach puff pastry:

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed in the fridge or at room temperature

About 250 grams of frozen kale, thawed and squeezed out of all excess moisture

1 clove of minced garlic

1 shallot, finely diced

2/3 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

2 eggs

A couple of gratings of fresh nutmeg, or a pinch of dried

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix together the thawed and thoroughly drained kale, garlic, shallots, ricotta, salt, pepper, grated nutmeg, and one egg until totally combined. Set aside.
  3. Unroll the puff pastry onto a baking sheet, using the attached parchment paper as a base. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter slice the puff pastry into 9 squares.
  4. Using two spoons evenly distribute the kale mixture into the centre of each square, you might not need the entire mixture (in which case, extras can be used as the base for a super tasty quiche).
  5. Carefully fold the corners of each puff pastry square into the centre and pinch together, it’s okay if you need to stretch the dough a bit to get the corners to stay together.
  6. Whisk the remaining egg and brush onto the puff pastries with a pastry brush. Bake for 25 minutes or until the puff pastries are nicely and lightly browned. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

And just because I saw Slowdive AKA my favourite band of all time just a few weeks ago (although it feels like a million years ago now) I’ve been listening to their latest album with the frequency of a fan obsessed. I think this song is so beautiful, I’m so happy I got to see them play it live. Just some very lovely shimmery shoegaze for a rainy afternoon.

Slowdive – Sugar for the Pill

Big Crunchy Winter Salad with a Maple Balsamic Dressing

Big crunchy winter salad on a square white plate with maple dressing.I can’t stop eating crunchy things lately. The other night I had a late-night dinner of barely roasted green beans and sea salt and the following day I was eyeing all the crunchy ingredients in my fridge, wondering how I could combine them all into one ultra-crunchy meal. This big crunchy winter salad is the result of all that wondering; composed of red cabbage, raw kale, broccoli stalks, apple slices, pomegranate seeds, celery, and toasted almonds this salad really lives up to its name. I know fruit in salad is highly contested, but I love the combination and ended up topping the salad with a maple balsamic dressing and a sprinkling of chunky sea salt. Ordinarily I would have used dried apricots in this salad, but I had a bright orange apricot and almond cheese plate add-on that I forgot to use so I chopped it into thin strips and used that instead. This salad will keep with its dressing on for several hours in the fridge so feel free to periodically nibble away on it until it’s totally gone.

big crunchy winter salad:

About 1 1/2 cups of thinly sliced or grated red cabbage

About 1 cup of very thinly sliced kale, ribs removed (give them a good massage with some olive oil and lemon juice if they’re particularly tough)

3 celery ribs, very thinly sliced on a diagonal

1 broccoli stalk, peeled and julienned (I used my handy-dandy julienne peeler for this)

1/2 an apple, very thinly sliced (dip in lemon juice to prevent browning if the salad will be sitting out for any length of time)

1/2 cup of toasted almond slivers or slices

5-6 dried apricots, cut into matchsticks

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Layer all of the salad ingredients on a large serving platter or in a salad bowl. Drizzle with the maple balsamic dressing and add a sprinkling of chunky sea salt such as fleur de sel on top of the salad before eating.

maple balsamic dressing:

1 Tbsp, maple syrup

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Whisk together the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar before slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Big crunchy winter salad on a white plate.

As a writer I find myself alone a LOT of the time during the day, which means I seek out audiobooks and podcasts when I’m not doing work that requires constant attention to order and word arrangement. There are also times when I’m by myself and I need to listen to something that will pump me up, usually in the form of a one-person dance party in my kitchen – and this is a good example of music that keeps me going when I’m feeling lonely. The Knife can be pretty inaccessible but damn, when they’re on they’re on!

The Knife – Silent Shout

Harvest Salad Bowl with Roasted Vegetables, Pistachios, and a Creamy Lemon Basil Dressing

A white square plate full of mixed raw and roasted vegetables on an orange and blue background.

Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone and once again we celebrated with a non-tradional beef tenderloin in lieu of turkey and, while that particular bird has never been a family-favourite, we still stick to a routine of roasting whichever autumnal vegetables look best at the grocery store. This explains why I now have an abundance of roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and beets just begging to be added to big and beautiful salad bowls such as this one. The sky’s the limit when it comes to ingredient options, I picked these ones because they make me feel as though I’m eating a rainbow and frankly, I already had them in my crisper. The pistachios could be any salted nut or seed, their saltiness against the sweetened roasted vegetables is the really important thing (which is why I’ve added a small crumble of feta to the dressing). You could really use any sort of dressing but I think the creaminess of this particular version really complements the roasted vegetables and provides a pleasant contrast to the crisp raw vegetables.

harvest salad bowl with roasted vegetables and pistachios:

An assortment of leftover roasted vegetables, especially brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and beets (or choose from a long list of other options including yams, sweet potatoes, broccoli, squash, mushrooms, or new potatoes)

About 1 cup of shredded purple cabbage

1 carrot, grated

4 grape tomatoes, quartered

1 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds

1 Tbsp. pistachios, chopped

2 scallions, thinly sliced

creamy lemon basil dressing:

1 heaping Tbsp. Greek yogurt

1 heaping Tbsp. sour cream

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. olive oil

About 2 Tbsp. crumbled salty feta

A couple of basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade

Juice of half a lemon

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake until completely emulsified.

Arrange the salad ingredients in a shallow bowl, layering the pistachios, scallions, and pomegranate seeds on top. Drizzle with the creamy lemon basil dressing and enjoy the rainbow of fresh flavours that is your harvest vegetable salad bowl!

A small white bowl full of salad dressing and garnished with a small basil leaf on an orange and blue background.

This song has a way of making people happy very quickly. A few years ago I was in Ontario visiting my dad and stepmom and we were driving around running errands when this song started playing from my iPod. We ended up driving around the block about ten times so my dad could get in repeated listenings and sing-alongs. We also played this song at our wedding, which (and I’m not trying to brag) was one of the best dance parties ever and people went crazy. I have it on a playlist full of very random songs and whenever Heart and Soul comes on it’s almost impossible not to have an in-the-moment one-person dance party right there and then, especially if you’re in the kitchen chopping vegetables.

Huey Lewis and The News – Heart and Soul